United States: District Of Columbia Mayor Gray Announces Release Of New Sustainable DC Plan To Implement Sustainability Initiative

Amy L. Edwards is a Partner in our Washington, D.C. office

If Fully Implemented, Plan Could Lead to Sweeping Changes to the Regulatory Landscape for the Built Environment in the District (and Perhaps Set a Precedent for Other Parts of the Country as Well)

The release of a new plan to implement the District of Columbia's "Sustainable DC" Initiative was announced by Mayor Vincent Gray on February 20, 3013. The Sustainable DC Plan builds on 15 months of planning and public engagement to identify the most pressing challenges facing the District's sustainability and proposes specific actions to be taken to address those challenges over the next 20 years. These actions would affect many aspects of the District's built environment, including residential and commercial development, open spaces, and energy, water and transportation infrastructures, among others. Collectively, these actions could significantly alter the regulatory landscape for planning and development in the District in the years ahead.


When the Sustainable DC Initiative was launched in September 2011, Mayor Gray stated that he wanted the District to become the "healthiest, greenest, most livable city in the United States." Since then, the initiative has established a Green Ribbon Committee, composed of community leaders from the public, private and nonprofit sectors, as well as the Green Cabinet, which was led by the city administrator and included directors of multiple District agencies; convened nine community-based working groups focusing on various aspects of sustainability; and held more than 180 public events across the District to promote sustainability and engage the public in the initiative. These efforts led to the publication of  A Vision for a Sustainable DC in April 2012, which defined the initiative's scope and set forth a set of broad goals for the District to achieve over the next 20 years. The Sustainable DC Plan released on February 20 seeks to implement many of those goals.

Challenges to Sustainability

First, the Sustainable DC Plan identifies multiple challenges facing the District's sustainability, including those related to the local economy and the need to simultaneously mitigate and adapt to climate change. To address these challenges, the plan sets forth the following goals:

  • Triple the number of small, District-based businesses by reducing the regulatory burden on small businesses, promoting businesses that meet social and environmental performance standards, and using anchor institutions in the District to create local markets for sustainable enterprises.
  • Expand the number and range of jobs available to District residents by integrating sustainable jobs training into school curricula and partnering with the Workforce Investment Council to craft targeted workforce development strategies.
  • Reduce total greenhouse gas emissions in the District by 50 percent by 2032 by creating a mechanism to report emissions from specific sources and financial incentives to support climate protection programs.
  • Improve the District's physical adaptation to the effects of climate change by evaluating the vulnerability of the District's energy infrastructure and by requiring all new buildings and major infrastructure projects to undergo a climate change impact analysis as part of the regulatory planning process.

Solutions for Improving Sustainability

Second, the Sustainable DC Plan proposes a wide variety of solutions in several distinct areas, including construction and development of the built environment, energy infrastructure, food and nutrition, the natural environment, transportation infrastructure, waste management, and water infrastructure, among others. Within these areas, particularly notable goals and targets include:

The Built Environment

  • Increase urban density to accommodate future population growth by increasing the supply of affordable housing, expanding brownfield development, reducing required parking minimums and restricting surface parking for large developments, and allowing accessory dwellings as part of existing homes.
  • Improve the sustainability performance of existing buildings by rehabilitating all public housing, eliminating environmental threats in affordable housing posed by mold, lead, and carbon monoxide, expanding green construction training programs, updating building operations and maintenance best practices through new public-private partnerships, and retrofitting all public buildings to achieve LEED Gold or equivalent standards. By 2032, 100 percent of all existing commercial and multifamily buildings should achieve net-zero energy standards.
  • Increase green building standards for all new construction by updating the Green Building Act to require higher levels of LEED certification and adopting new green construction codes for new development and major renovations, providing financial incentives for new buildings that achieve LEED Gold or equivalent standards, and requiring all new buildings to achieve net-zero, if not net-positive, energy performance. By 2032, all new developments should achieve net-zero energy performance standards.

Energy Infrastructure

  • Improve energy efficiency and reduce overall consumption by requiring audits and disclosure of building energy performance, establishing minimum energy performance standards, providing $500 million in funding for renewable energy and efficiency retrofits, and completing a comprehensive energy plan for the District. The long-term goal is to reduce total energy consumption by 50 percent by 2032.
  • Increase the use of energy from clean and renewable sources by revising the District's Renewable Portfolio Standard, building 1,000 additional residential and commercial renewable energy projects, and allowing community solar and other renewable energy systems.
  • Modernize energy infrastructure by developing a plan for citywide smart grid technology, improving efficiency and reliability of energy transmission infrastructure, and expanding local energy generation projects.

Food and Nutrition

  • Develop an additional 20 acres of land in the District for the cultivation of food by installing educational gardens at D.C. public schools, developing orchards in D.C. public spaces and establishing a permit process for pop-up agriculture.

The Natural Environment

  • Protect and restore wetlands and other aquatic ecosystems by planting an additional 140 acres of wetlands along the Anacostia and Potomac rivers and other streams, and requiring new waterfront developments and renovations to incorporate low-impact development strategies related to green infrastructure and stormwater management.
  • Expand tree cover in the District by planting 8,600 new trees annually until 2032 and requiring trees and green space on all new development sites.

Transportation Infrastructure

  • Increase use of public transit, biking and walking by completing 37 miles of streetcar and premium bus services, improving transit connections to employment and activity centers in underserved areas, developing a citywide 100-mile bike lane network, expanding the Capital Bikeshare Program by 200 stations, and reprogramming traffic and crosswalk signals to be more convenient for pedestrians and cyclists. Collectively, public transit, walking and biking should account for 75 percent of all commuter trips in the District by 2032.
  • Reduce traffic congestion by expanding performance-based parking and car-sharing programs, and studying the feasibility of congestion pricing. The goal is to reduce trips made by car or taxi to 25 percent of all commuter trips in the District by 2032.

Waste Management

  • Reuse 20 percent of all construction and demolition waste by 2032 by requiring new large construction and major renovation projects to prepare comprehensive construction waste management plans to reuse or recycle 75 percent of construction and demolition waste, and requiring use of recycled and salvaged building materials.

Water Infrastructure

  • Improve the quality of District waterways by restricting the use of pesticides and fertilizers, restricting use of road salts in winter, and studying the feasibility of nutrient and water quality trading programs.
  • Relieve pressure on stormwater infrastructure and reduce long-term flood risks by installing 2 million new square feet of green roofs, increasing use of green infrastructure in the public right of way, constructing 25 miles of green alleys and increasing use of pervious surfaces.
  • Reduce demands for potable water by updating District building codes to increase water-efficiency standards and allow use of alternative water systems, provide financial incentives for new water-efficiency measures in landscaping and building design, and expand the use of water monitoring technology.


The Sustainable DC Plan recognizes that achieving these goals will require certain commitments and reforms by the D.C. government in collaboration with the federal government, community organizations, businesses and other local institutions. A few reforms specifically identified in the plan include dedicating additional District government staff to implementing various goals, identifying and reforming laws and regulations that conflict with sustainability goals, and expanding public-private collaboration on multiple issues.


The Sustainable DC Plan includes many discrete actions to be taken and specific targets to be achieved in multiple stages over the next 20 years. Some short-term goals could be realized relatively quickly, while others may require many years to fully implement. Together, these efforts have the potential to significantly alter the regulatory landscape for major development activities in the District. As an additional complication, this initiative is being introduced in the context of a wide variety of new programs and regulatory changes that also impact the District's sustainability, including the Green Building Act, Green Power Purchasing Program and the Anacostia Waterfront Initiative, among others, as well as new regulations, such as those regarding stormwater management and soil erosion and sediment controls. Given this intense activity, it will be essential for planners, designers, builders and real estate professionals to remain abreast of new programs, incentives and regulations issued by the District government on an ongoing basis in the months and years ahead. Moreover, because many of its specific solutions are transferable to many large urban centers, building owners may see similar proposals and plans in other jurisdictions across the country in the near future.


The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.

To print this article, all you need is to be registered on Mondaq.com.

Click to Login as an existing user or Register so you can print this article.

In association with
Related Topics
Related Articles
Related Video
Up-coming Events Search
Font Size:
Mondaq on Twitter
Register for Access and our Free Biweekly Alert for
This service is completely free. Access 250,000 archived articles from 100+ countries and get a personalised email twice a week covering developments (and yes, our lawyers like to think you’ve read our Disclaimer).
Email Address
Company Name
Confirm Password
Mondaq Topics -- Select your Interests
 Law Performance
 Law Practice
 Media & IT
 Real Estate
 Wealth Mgt
Asia Pacific
European Union
Latin America
Middle East
United States
Worldwide Updates
Registration (you must scroll down to set your data preferences)

Mondaq Ltd requires you to register and provide information that personally identifies you, including your content preferences, for three primary purposes (full details of Mondaq’s use of your personal data can be found in our Privacy and Cookies Notice):

  • To allow you to personalize the Mondaq websites you are visiting to show content ("Content") relevant to your interests.
  • To enable features such as password reminder, news alerts, email a colleague, and linking from Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) to your website.
  • To produce demographic feedback for our content providers ("Contributors") who contribute Content for free for your use.

Mondaq hopes that our registered users will support us in maintaining our free to view business model by consenting to our use of your personal data as described below.

Mondaq has a "free to view" business model. Our services are paid for by Contributors in exchange for Mondaq providing them with access to information about who accesses their content. Once personal data is transferred to our Contributors they become a data controller of this personal data. They use it to measure the response that their articles are receiving, as a form of market research. They may also use it to provide Mondaq users with information about their products and services.

Details of each Contributor to which your personal data will be transferred is clearly stated within the Content that you access. For full details of how this Contributor will use your personal data, you should review the Contributor’s own Privacy Notice.

Please indicate your preference below:

Yes, I am happy to support Mondaq in maintaining its free to view business model by agreeing to allow Mondaq to share my personal data with Contributors whose Content I access
No, I do not want Mondaq to share my personal data with Contributors

Also please let us know whether you are happy to receive communications promoting products and services offered by Mondaq:

Yes, I am happy to received promotional communications from Mondaq
No, please do not send me promotional communications from Mondaq
Terms & Conditions

Mondaq.com (the Website) is owned and managed by Mondaq Ltd (Mondaq). Mondaq grants you a non-exclusive, revocable licence to access the Website and associated services, such as the Mondaq News Alerts (Services), subject to and in consideration of your compliance with the following terms and conditions of use (Terms). Your use of the Website and/or Services constitutes your agreement to the Terms. Mondaq may terminate your use of the Website and Services if you are in breach of these Terms or if Mondaq decides to terminate the licence granted hereunder for any reason whatsoever.

Use of www.mondaq.com

To Use Mondaq.com you must be: eighteen (18) years old or over; legally capable of entering into binding contracts; and not in any way prohibited by the applicable law to enter into these Terms in the jurisdiction which you are currently located.

You may use the Website as an unregistered user, however, you are required to register as a user if you wish to read the full text of the Content or to receive the Services.

You may not modify, publish, transmit, transfer or sell, reproduce, create derivative works from, distribute, perform, link, display, or in any way exploit any of the Content, in whole or in part, except as expressly permitted in these Terms or with the prior written consent of Mondaq. You may not use electronic or other means to extract details or information from the Content. Nor shall you extract information about users or Contributors in order to offer them any services or products.

In your use of the Website and/or Services you shall: comply with all applicable laws, regulations, directives and legislations which apply to your Use of the Website and/or Services in whatever country you are physically located including without limitation any and all consumer law, export control laws and regulations; provide to us true, correct and accurate information and promptly inform us in the event that any information that you have provided to us changes or becomes inaccurate; notify Mondaq immediately of any circumstances where you have reason to believe that any Intellectual Property Rights or any other rights of any third party may have been infringed; co-operate with reasonable security or other checks or requests for information made by Mondaq from time to time; and at all times be fully liable for the breach of any of these Terms by a third party using your login details to access the Website and/or Services

however, you shall not: do anything likely to impair, interfere with or damage or cause harm or distress to any persons, or the network; do anything that will infringe any Intellectual Property Rights or other rights of Mondaq or any third party; or use the Website, Services and/or Content otherwise than in accordance with these Terms; use any trade marks or service marks of Mondaq or the Contributors, or do anything which may be seen to take unfair advantage of the reputation and goodwill of Mondaq or the Contributors, or the Website, Services and/or Content.

Mondaq reserves the right, in its sole discretion, to take any action that it deems necessary and appropriate in the event it considers that there is a breach or threatened breach of the Terms.

Mondaq’s Rights and Obligations

Unless otherwise expressly set out to the contrary, nothing in these Terms shall serve to transfer from Mondaq to you, any Intellectual Property Rights owned by and/or licensed to Mondaq and all rights, title and interest in and to such Intellectual Property Rights will remain exclusively with Mondaq and/or its licensors.

Mondaq shall use its reasonable endeavours to make the Website and Services available to you at all times, but we cannot guarantee an uninterrupted and fault free service.

Mondaq reserves the right to make changes to the services and/or the Website or part thereof, from time to time, and we may add, remove, modify and/or vary any elements of features and functionalities of the Website or the services.

Mondaq also reserves the right from time to time to monitor your Use of the Website and/or services.


The Content is general information only. It is not intended to constitute legal advice or seek to be the complete and comprehensive statement of the law, nor is it intended to address your specific requirements or provide advice on which reliance should be placed. Mondaq and/or its Contributors and other suppliers make no representations about the suitability of the information contained in the Content for any purpose. All Content provided "as is" without warranty of any kind. Mondaq and/or its Contributors and other suppliers hereby exclude and disclaim all representations, warranties or guarantees with regard to the Content, including all implied warranties and conditions of merchantability, fitness for a particular purpose, title and non-infringement. To the maximum extent permitted by law, Mondaq expressly excludes all representations, warranties, obligations, and liabilities arising out of or in connection with all Content. In no event shall Mondaq and/or its respective suppliers be liable for any special, indirect or consequential damages or any damages whatsoever resulting from loss of use, data or profits, whether in an action of contract, negligence or other tortious action, arising out of or in connection with the use of the Content or performance of Mondaq’s Services.


Mondaq may alter or amend these Terms by amending them on the Website. By continuing to Use the Services and/or the Website after such amendment, you will be deemed to have accepted any amendment to these Terms.

These Terms shall be governed by and construed in accordance with the laws of England and Wales and you irrevocably submit to the exclusive jurisdiction of the courts of England and Wales to settle any dispute which may arise out of or in connection with these Terms. If you live outside the United Kingdom, English law shall apply only to the extent that English law shall not deprive you of any legal protection accorded in accordance with the law of the place where you are habitually resident ("Local Law"). In the event English law deprives you of any legal protection which is accorded to you under Local Law, then these terms shall be governed by Local Law and any dispute or claim arising out of or in connection with these Terms shall be subject to the non-exclusive jurisdiction of the courts where you are habitually resident.

You may print and keep a copy of these Terms, which form the entire agreement between you and Mondaq and supersede any other communications or advertising in respect of the Service and/or the Website.

No delay in exercising or non-exercise by you and/or Mondaq of any of its rights under or in connection with these Terms shall operate as a waiver or release of each of your or Mondaq’s right. Rather, any such waiver or release must be specifically granted in writing signed by the party granting it.

If any part of these Terms is held unenforceable, that part shall be enforced to the maximum extent permissible so as to give effect to the intent of the parties, and the Terms shall continue in full force and effect.

Mondaq shall not incur any liability to you on account of any loss or damage resulting from any delay or failure to perform all or any part of these Terms if such delay or failure is caused, in whole or in part, by events, occurrences, or causes beyond the control of Mondaq. Such events, occurrences or causes will include, without limitation, acts of God, strikes, lockouts, server and network failure, riots, acts of war, earthquakes, fire and explosions.

By clicking Register you state you have read and agree to our Terms and Conditions